Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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stand-up 3809Father Joseph Looney, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, offers a prayer in front of about 200 people who gathered on the New Haven Green on Oct. 20. (Photo By Mary Chalupsky)

NEW HAVEN – The November elections clearly were on the minds of those who gathered here Oct. 20 for a rally that was held simultaneously around the country to encourage standing up for religious freedom.

"We are all here because our religious freedoms today are under attack," said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, who led a line-up of speakers and described what he called the threat to freedom, the impact of citizen inactivity and what supporters need to do to fight for religious freedom.

"The next three weeks are absolutely critical in the fight to protect our religious liberty," he said.

The gathering was the third in a series of national Stand Up for Freedom events (March 23 and June 8) that were the brainchild of Chicago native Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League. The rallies have been held simultaneously in as many as 140 cities across the country.

The purpose is to reverse a mandate of the Obama administration’s federal health care law that requires employer health plans to include free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of moral or religious convictions.

The mandate, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would force religious employers such as Catholic universities and hospitals, as well as Catholic-owned businesses, to provide services that directly contradict Catholic teaching.

Since the January ruling, there have been protests, rallies and the filing of dozens of federal lawsuits against what is being described as the erosion of religious liberty in the country.

"Never has the government overstepped its boundaries more than with the HHS mandate," said pro-life supporter Nicole Peck, who spoke on behalf of the Silent No More awareness campaign. "We must pray," she urged, noting that half-time prayer will not result in "a full-time victory."

Supporters waved flags and signs that read "Pres. Obama Is No Friend of Catholics," "Religious Freedom for All Americans," "Stand Up for Religious Freedom," "Stop the HHS Mandate" and "One Nation Under God."

"We’re in the crux of a great change in this country if we stay home," said Dr. Lorraine Hartland of Deep River, who said she went to the rally to gather information and courage to get out and influence others.

"If we stay home and do nothing, the turn will be toward evil," she said. "We will lose our rights and the result will be a slippery slope to who knows what."

Rich Janes of Shelton agreed. "As the morality of the nation goes, so goes the nation," he said. "This (the current attack on religious freedom) is only the start of bringing down the Catholic Church."

Echoed Kimberly Lanier of Bethlehem: "It’s just wrong that they should be able to force us into something that’s morally wrong."

Organizer Norma Contois handed out fliers, signs and literature, and referred supporters to voter guides from the Catholic Association, Priests for Life and the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference.

"We have to do everything we can to oppose ObamaCare," said Father Joseph Looney, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, who led the rally in a prayer.

Other speakers included Wayne Winsley, a Republican who is challenging Democrat Rosa DeLauro in a race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; and Bill Brown, an evangelical minister from East Hartford.

"Freedom requires a moral center," said Mr. Winsley, who said that its building block is freedom of religion. "The government never gets to determine how you practice your religious freedom. We have to stand up, stand together, link arms and say ‘no.’"


alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.